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Bolognese With Bite

Alas, I don’t think I’ll be boarding a plane to the UK anytime soon. Not with my pitiful bank account.

And alas, that means I won’t be dining anytime in the near future, either, at the acclaimed Fat Duck restaurant.

So I did the next best thing.

I made “New Style” Ragu alla Blogonese, a recipe published a year or so ago in Saveur magazine that was inspired by one in “In Search of Perfection” (Bloomsbury), the book by the Fat Duck’s award-winning chef, Heston Blumenthal.

A Brit cooking an old-school Italian dish?

You bet.

A Brit adding ketchup, fish sauce, and star anise to ragu?

Heck, yes.

Along with Worcestershire sauce, those ingredients heighten the meaty or umami taste of the dish. In fact, I even added a tad more fish sauce to up the ante.

I can’t say that this particular bolognese edged out my favorite one, Perbacco’s 5-Hour Pork Sugo. But it’s a definite contender. Unlike the Perbacco version that calls for ground pork, the Blementhal one uses boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice. Whereas the Perbacco version cooks up into a cohesive, thick, rich sauce, the Blumenthal one has a texture more like chili, with distinct chunks of meat.

It’s quite hardy, and will satiate like nothing else on a blustery evening.

You don’t even have to bother with a plane ticket to enjoy a big bowl of it, either.

New Style Ragu alla Bolognese

(makes 4 cups)

4 sprigs thyme

4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

1 fresh bay leaf

1 sprig tarragon

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 large onions, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed

1 cup white wine

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed

2 tablespoons ketchup, or to taste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 to 1 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Using kitchen twine, tie together thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and tarragon. Set herb bundle aside. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add pork, season with salt and pepper; cook until browned, 12-15 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon; set aside. Heat remaining oil in pot; add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, cloves, star anise, and coriander. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add herb bundle, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, fish sauce, and Tabasco; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tomatoes break down, 12-15 minutes. Stri in pork and milk, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 3-3 1/2 hours. (Add a little water, if needed.) Discard herb bundle; stir in vinegar. Toss with fresh tagliatelle or pasta of your choice. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Adapted from a recipe from Saveur, inspired by Heston Blumenthal